By Bingjie Wang
As the U.S. economy continues to decline and Obama’s stimulus package continues to be given as bonuses to top CEOs, the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is feeling the crunch.
The state legislature is cutting around $34 million of SPS’s funding for the 2009 – 2010 school year. SPS plans to close schools, discontinue programs, freeze cost-of-living adjustments for the district staff, maintain a hiring freeze, and draw on reserves to adjust for the shortfall.
This was not enough, and the district has had to send individual teachers reduction-in-force notices, saying that he or she will be out of a job. The district determined who received the cut based on seniority and current contacts.
The language arts and world history departments were especially affected due to the overload of teachers.
Cutting teachers based on seniority has had a devastating effect on students. The teachers cut are the younger ones, teachers fresh out of graduate school with an energy and enthusiasm for teaching.
Many atrocious teachers still remain. The simple solution to a budget crisis would be to keep the good teachers and cut the bad ones. However, once a teacher has seniority in SPS, the teacher is virtually untouchable. Firing a teacher simply because he or she is a bad teacher is virtually impossible due to the teachers’ union. Because of this, some teachers choose to relax their teaching policy, which affects the students’ learning.
In order to fire a teacher, the district must go through a complicated process where they send someone to listen to the teacher’s lessons for up to a year before they can make any decisions.
What makes reduction-in-force notices worse is that state legislature still has money to spend on remodeling schools while great teachers are losing their jobs.
SPS needs a higher standard for teachers and their educational goals. The process of firing teachers due to apathy in teaching should be easier. ♦
Bingjie Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The stories in this issue are written by SYLP students, not Northwest Asian Weekly staff. Opinions herein do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the newspaper.)
Stacy Lawson says
Teacher efficacy and quality should be at the center of the debate for all of us as education is the foundation of our communities and society at large. Recent and old studies show that if we increase the graduation rate from high school we decrease the incarceration rate. Education affects public safety, public health, personal mental health, our economy, and our position in the world. We (teachers, the union, principals, the district, parents, and children) need to sign on to the common goal of supporting teachers, so they may give our children the best. Not everyone that begins a profession is destined to end up there… and, that’s a good thing. Gate’s foundation has discovered that good teachers take time to develop. Their studies indicate that 4 years is the time necessary to see if a teacher has it. How about no seniority for 4 years and then a formula that includes seniority and merit to determine contracts and pay. We can do a lot better for our schools by employing common sense and good research. And, let’s not forget that money is necessary. How about talking about an income tax? Let’s pay teachers their worth, so they do not burnout from lack of appreciation…
The critical point that’s missed here is that principals are also not released for being incompetent. So long as incompetent principals are retained, teacher evaluations are suspect at best. Bad principals use evaluations to play politics, the race card, or simply judge teachers based on how much trouble they cause- not student outcomes.
If you want to start a process of rewarding good educators and releasing bad ones, you need to start at the top- first with district HQ, then with principals, then finally with teachers.